End of the line

Marlowe Road Estate is in the middle of a large-scale redevelopment programme
Marlowe Road Estate is in the middle of a large-scale redevelopment programme (credit Penny Dampier)

Michelle Edwards from Marlowe Road Estate has run out of patience with the council

I am standing at the doorway of my decaying ground-floor flat on the verge of tears.

My boyfriend Ricky has just stormed out, having been prevented from entering beyond the middle passageway. He’s had a look at the kitchen on the left and the bathroom on the right. But prior to coming in, I made him agree that he couldn’t come in any further because of the doorway damp, disrepair, and soiled and stained condition of the property.

I genuinely think he thought he could oblige my request, yet here we are, disagreeing. Understandably, he thinks my behaviour is “off-key” considering I frequently stay over at his gaff and reckons I’m having my end away with another bloke. This is what my life has been reduced to – endless explanations. Why I don’t want to go home after a sleepover, why I deliberately go out late to get away from the endless anti-social behaviour, why the dark circles under my eyes have become more pronounced.

It is against this miserable backdrop that I decided to formally request a meeting with the senior regeneration officer on the estate. I am surrendering; it’s time to grant Waltham Forest Council their most desired wish. I *will* go. I *will* leave the estate and stop holding them to account. I’d already decided to bring this column to an end anyway.

I first reached out to the council in mid-February and the meeting was agreed on principle. However, once the UK was put into lockdown in March, a cancellation was inevitable. During the five months to September, various emails and mobile contact ensued. A fixed July date fell through, unexpectedly. Despite being in the diary for days, I ended up pouring over a “I’m afraid I won’t be able to meet you tomorrow as planned” email the night before and fielding more than one attempt to shift me on to Zoom. It appeared the officer was dodging the meeting.

In any case, the meeting finally went ahead on agreed terms in the third week of September. After outlining my disquiet at my living conditions and mental wellbeing, the officer advised that the council was unable to assist me with any request to move, since a new planning application was being considered which would extend the demolition date of my block from its current estimate of 18 months, to some time a lot later. I despair. Had we not met, when were they going to update the remaining residents?!

Despite evidence to the contrary, the officer insisted they hadn’t helped other residents in the past with finding properties, until I reminded her that I had seen and produced letters to that very effect. A silence, a look to the heavens. “Ah, well, that was different.” The council had to intervene in those cases because they needed those properties back in order to complete the relevant phase of the development – assistance would only be granted when the time comes to demolish my block – which is still up in the air.

Until then I have to engage with the ineffective bidding process that sucked the spirit out of so many of my long-gone neighbours.